Bringing Home Baby Ahmed

Bringing Home Baby Ahmed

by. Sr. Anna Finnegan MMM                                         Ireland                                03.04.2024

In November 1980, I was at home ready to return to Nigeria after my Final Profession. Our Congregational Leader, at the time, Sr. Jude Walsh, rang me and asked if I would do something a bit unusual. Would I bring a little ten-month old baby back to Nigeria?

The father was Nigerian, and the mother was Irish. The mother was very young, and she did not feel able to look after the baby herself. The father wanted to have him back in Nigeria. She was very agreeable to this and together they worked with Social Services to make it possible.
I said I would be happy to bring the baby back with me. I was well used to caring for children being one of a large family, and with my previous experience of working in the Childrens’ Hospital. Before I left, I checked things out with the social worker and was satisfied to know that the official documentation was in order.

The morning came in mid-November for departure. Two of our MMM Sisters left me to Dublin airport where I was to meet the mother and baby. There was no sign of them when I arrived, and my flight was called three times. Then in the distance I could see a young fair-haired girl running across the airport with the baby in her arms. She gave me the baby and a bag containing the baby’s items. Before we left, she wanted photographs taken with the baby and asked me to write to her when the child had reached his father. At the Aer Lingus departure desk, I passed the baby Ahmed’s ticket and my own to the lady. She looked up at me in surprise, as I was dressed in my full grey habit. She smiled and said, “Are you taking that baby all the way to Nigeria?”

When we reached Amsterdam, we had a few hours to wait until the next flight to Lagos. Ahmed was quite happy and content. Then came the longer flight to Lagos. I had a very comfortable seat at the front of the plane with extra room for baby Ahmed. He was a happy child and danced up and down on my knee until he fell asleep. The air hostess was very helpful too when I needed hot water, etc, for the baby’s food.
When we arrived in Lagos, one of our MMM Sisters was there to meet us. We waited around for a long time – no sign of the father. It wasn’t any surprise because communication between Ireland and Nigeria was very slow at that time, an there were no mobile phones!

We took the late afternoon flight to Port Harcourt. I had a ticket only as far as Lagos for the baby, but I boarded the plane that afternoon with the baby and no one raised an eyebrow! While we walked across the tarmac, sisters from another Congregation, who were waiting to pick up their passenger, were eyeing us and were surprised to see myself and a baby arriving in!

In Port Harcourt one of our MMM Sisters was waiting there with the driver to bring us to Urua Akpan. It was only in Urua Akpan that the baby began to fret. He was not used to all these young girls wanting to pick him up and play with him.

Now, how to find the father? On Friday, the next morning, we travelled to the town where the father worked and went to the factory. Unfortunately, he had a day off work that day and no one could locate him. After leaving messages that he should be at home the following day, we went to our nearest MMM house for the night. Next morning, we were successful. The father was waiting outside his house, happy, excited and nervous to see his little son again. Ahmed cried when he left my arms, and it was hard to say goodbye. The father assured us that his own mother was going to help him take care of the child.

When I got back to Urua Akpan, I wrote to the mother as promised, and she wrote back thanking me. She had also received a letter from the father.

As I write this in April 2024, Ahmed, the baby, is now 44 years old. I often think of him and pray that he is happy and that he is doing good for the people of Nigeria.